It’s a good thing you weren’t holding your breath

I can now reveal the source of all the craziness I mentioned a while back. The “lottery” to determine those people who would get Olympic tickets in Phase 1 has been completed. The English version of the official release is here. Odd things started happening a few days ahead of the event, when our administrative staff started moving the tables and computers out of the mostly unused area near my cubicle. Then we had an announcement that the power would be going off for a while to install some equipment. Then some workers came in and started building things.
Including a video wall.
The next day they brought in a podium, a bunch of PA gear, and red carpet.
They put up a wall, painted it red, and started putting logos and letters on it. They brought in a bunch of chairs.
They brought in a spotlight and a rack with colored can lights. We had some fun taking pictures of each other at the podium.
By the end of the day, we were planning on using the video system to play DVDs after the workers left, but by 7:30 or so they were still working, so we gave up on that dream. Here’s a shot where you can see my desk on the right and the video wall over to the left.
Strictly speaking, my presence wasn’t required at the office for the ceremony, but there was no way I was going to miss the spectacle that had turned our work life on its head for several days.

Before the guests arrive, the chairs are given name tags.
Here’s the head of Olympic Ticketing giving his opening speech.
There were two Notaries on hand to certify that the results were fair and not tampered with. No comment.
Earlier in the day, they sealed the data center where the servers are located so that no one could… well stare at them ominously. I wasn’t there to see this, so I swiped this picture off the news site. It’s just too important to leave out – see, the TV cameras were there!
Next up, CL gave a speech about how the lottery program would be fair and was built to the specifications that the Olympic Committee gave us. It better be – I wrote the specification! (Full disclosure: I did not write the lottery program, I just came up with the functional design and explained it to the people who managed the actual developers.)
And them the magic moment arrives, the Big Red Button (actually the Enter key) is pushed, and the lottery program begins.
Output started streaming by on the big video wall. As you can see, not many people stuck around to watch it. After all, it took over two hours to run through the more than 600 competition sessions. The program had not originally been designed to have any visible output at all, but then we found out they intended to televise it, and the developers threw together this three-part display.
Here is our Second Banana (after CL) explaining the process to member of the press.

As the program continued about its business, more interviews were conducted, and on the sidelines, media people prepared for their turn.
Some things are universal: where there are cords, there will be tangles.
CL explains the lottery process, and how happy we are to be working on the Olympics. If you poke around on the Olympic site, you can find video of this interview, and a summary here.
And here he gets to do it again for another reporter. One of them was CCTV (China Central Television) and the other was BTV (Beijing Television), I think, but don’t ask me which was which.
And here is another of our people explaining the process to another reporter. I don’t know who she was, but all the men were paying lots of attention to her.
And finally, a little over two hours later, CL announced that the program had been completed successfully and that winners would be notified pending certification of the results.
It must have been fair. These guys certified it.
And this is the bottom line, the final report. Notice that 551,017 people requested tickets to the opening ceremonies and only 26,000 were awarded. The total capacity of the National Stadium is about 91,000. That, in a nutshell, is why we had a lottery. Other popular events included basketball, diving, swimming, table tennis and badminton.
As usual, it takes much less time to take the set down than it did to build it.
I call this the Hidden Box That Secretly Ran Everything. Which is true in a way, since it’s the extra circuit breaker they brought in to power the video equipment, spotlight and so on.

I hope you’ll all agree that this was a pretty amazing amount of hoopla to witness the running of a computer program. We toyed with the idea of bringing in a big plexiglass bin full of ping pong balls with numbers on them, or maybe a big hat with scraps of paper, but decided against.

Wasn’t that fun?


  1. Loved the sealing of the server room, a computer server certainly can't be accessed from a remote location. hehe

  2. I'm just relieved there wasn't some bizarre virus in the office. Literally. My head was totally somewhere else on this little secret.